Tuesday, December 30, 2008

radio, music, media

Results for Ghana's run-off election are due today. And while the gh-elections.com vote tracker has been frozen on last night's results (before NPP numbers surged overnight against the opposition) almost all radio stations in Greater Accra today have played non-stop music. The exception is Radio Gold, which has featured a continuous line-up of commentary on electoral conjecture and conspiracy, including rumors that the station was being forcibly pushed off-the-air.

Having just come back from Tema, the effects of this wall of music are palpable. With pro-sanity ("We love peace!") and nationalistic vibes ("Ghana belongs to you and me, Ghana belongs to all of us!") blasting on speakers everywhere, everyone awaits the electoral commission's verdict. Its interesting to see the effects of music so clearly. If all the stations were broadcasting talk radio's rumors and hearsay all day, the effect would be to amplify animosity between supporters of both parties. But with music dominating today, positivity pulsates despite the tension.

It sounds like the opposition NDC will win after all, and peaceful transition of power for the second time in this round of Ghana's democracy could be good merely if it reinforces the idea of democracy over communalism.

Seeing (hearing!) the electronic speakers population during Christmas reminds me that architecture in Tema is already integrated with existing electronic infrastructure...in Tema information infrastructure shouldn't be reduced to cell phone tech alone--the parallel network of radios, radio stations and gigantic speakers is also super-legit. I'm still trying to understand the speaker situation (is it cultural or environment-determined?)--people love "big, big" speakers here... even India is not this intense sonically.

Monday, December 22, 2008


There is an "informal" drinking spot next to my house: it's a little disconcerting to see local taxi drivers having shots for breakfast.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Public Wi-Fi

[Note: I started this blog post at Amsterdam's Schiphol airport while waiting for my flight to Accra--I'm working on thesis in Tema through January--but lost battery power before I could post it. How appropriate.]

Having finally connected to free wi-fi at Schiphol airport I remembered what someone (Aron Chang?) said recently (during thesis workshop--a group of us doing theses at Harvard GSD, who meet to present our research-in-progress and to discuss ideas): "digital is physical too!" in reference to the physical infrastructure required to support digital environments (routers, servers, etc.) Saskia Sassen and Robert Latham wrote a related introduction to their edited volume Digital Formations in which they highlight that digitally networked technologies create new social formations. Reading texts like this I have wondered throughout the semester: what are the implications for architects? Since space is both physical and digital, how do we design for interrelating both forms of space?

Seeing in-transit travelers appropriating all kinds of Schiphol's nooks and crannies to work and play and communicate on laptops made me think first of a blogger in New Zealand who posted a really interesting piece on Wi-fi structures and people shapes...noting that
urban industry - in the widest sense of the word - in the knowledge economy is often invisible, at least immediately and in situ. Whereas urban industry would once have produced thick plumes of smoke or deafening sheets of sound, today's information-rich environments - like the State Library of Queensland, or a contemporary office - are places of still, quiet production, with few sensory side-effects. We see people everywhere, faces lit by their open laptops, yet no evidence of their production. They could be using Facebook, Photoshop, Excel or Processing.

(S/he also has another cool post on The street as platform.)

Its true that the information industry is AT TIMES invisible. However, all this obsession with mobility--"you can work ANYWHERE!"--is not true. Physical constraints determine the boundaries of anywhere...like my own search for a US-to-European adapter, a working outlet at Schiphol that was not already powering someone's electronic device, and which also was within range of a free wireless hub...

Now, today in Tema... after several days of attempting to call the internet company Zipnet's landline (dead), cell phone bank (no answer), they responded to email within hours...drove to my house and installed radio-based (? that's what they said) internet. RE: Thesis...Given that Tema was created as an industrial city, the new realities of the information industry (my obsession with information distribution and knowledge production) may involve architecture (i.e. "design") especially strongly at the level of infrastructure...

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